I’ve just reviewed Glock, The Rise of America’s Gun. Paul M. Barrett’s book devotes an entire Chapter to “Going Hollywood.” Barrett ascribes much of the Glock’s cultural success to the fact that it was the handgun of choice for both fictional good guys and bad guys. I’m not asking if we should “allow” the glamorization of guns (as if we could or should). Just the opposite. Does the increasing normalization of guns remove some of their mystique? In other words, are firearms still the s4it?

14 Responses to Question of the Day: What’s Wrong with America’s Gun Culture?

  1. What’s wrong with America’s gun culture? It could stand to be a little more inclusive, starting with California, New York, Illinois and Massachusetts.

  2. Yes, that’s what normalization means. Things that are normal are not mystical, by definition. A more interesting question is, “Do media portrayals of guns assist in normalizing/demystifying guns?” And the answer to that question is “No.” Media portrayals of guns have been around for a long time. They’ve only served to make them more of a totem of power. You cannot get a feel for what a gun is actually like without physically picking one up, any more than you can get an accurate impression of what it’s like to drive a car at high speed until you’ve actually done it. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve taken shooting who were surprised at how hard it was to rack a slide, or squeeze a double action trigger. How you have to actually seat a magazine firmly. Never mind dealing with recoil. Never mind what happens when you get a malfunction. (Something you never see in action movies, except perhaps Blackhawk Down.) It’s not as easy as it looks on screen.

    What makes it normal is the actual experience. Not just feeling it, and smelling it, and hearing it, but also seeing how it works. A real gun is not just a solid object that spits death in the form of computer-generated muzzle flashes, but a collection of springs and moving parts that can be analyzed and understood. You take a gun apart, break a nail on it, look at how it all fits together, and suddenly it’s just a machine. A tool. You see the safeties that prevent it from going off if dropped. You see how the hammer or striker has to be compressed by the trigger or it simply won’t have enough force to do anything, and you understand that this thing isn’t just going to “go off”. It’s not magic, it’s cause and effect.

    I think the biggest effect is shooters “coming out”. It used to be a pretty clannish hobby. Dingy ranges populated by old guys who looked at outsiders with disdain. Shooters were unwilling to talk about the fact that they owned guns, for fear of being ostracized. But maybe it was the AWB, maybe it was the aftermath of natural disasters like Katrina (they’re advertising preparedness web sites on my local NPR station now), maybe it’s the CCW laws that have been passed. But shooters are now more willing to talk about their hobby, and share it with friends. And we’ve got more nice “retail ranges”, well-ventilated, well-lit, with snack bars even where women and novices feel welcome.

    This all gets more guns in more hands, and once you’ve done it, seeing on the screen is far less impressive.

  3. I see nothing wrong with removing the hysteria and taboo from discussions about firearms and their uses. Growing up on the East Coast in the 1970s, my exposure to guns was extremely limited and almost completely negative: the graphic outline of a handgun hovering over a TV anchorman’s shoulder while he described the latest shooting or robbery, or the hitman’s snubnose on Baretta or Starsky & Hutch.

    My exposure to guns didn’t change until we moved to Colorado in 1981, where I began to meet classmates who were hunters and shooters. When my Boy Scout troop sponsored a Hunter Education Safety Course, I signed up for it and I was fascinated by what we were taught.

    The menace and taboo of guns vanished, and so did their glamour and mystique. By learning the facts about guns (and not the Hollywood/NBC News/Brady Bunch hyperbole) and how to handle them safely, they became mundane, everyday tools for hunting, recreation and self-defense.

    What’s wrong with American gun culture? Too much hysteria and too little education and information.

  4. Are firearms still the, ahhh, schnizzle?

    Depends on the firearm. The days of Granpa’s .30-30 or pump gun being lovingly passed down from father to son are coming to a close, but the rise of tacticool is upon us. Judging by the rental counter at my local range, Glocks (hwack-pitooey) are still the “cool gun”, but millions of kids have grown up using virtual MP5’s and/or real M4’s, so it looks like the tricked-out mall ninja gun is the new standard for the next few years.

  5. How about a Twain quote: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
    When TV shows and movies are where people gain their informedness of guns and how they work socially and functionally, we are all in trouble.
    Start with brandishing and pointing guns at people to emphasize a point one is making and go from there.

  6. There’s nothing wrong with America’s gun culture (if such a thing actually exists). It’s Hollywood that’s f^cked up.

    • There’s a lot of truth in that as I see it. To me, America’s real gun culture is receding into the past and the phony Hollywood depiction of firearms is replacing it — not only among the general public but for many in gun culture 2.0 as well, unfortunately.

  7. America’s gun culture is all screwed up! I’ve loved guns ever since I can remember. My God son is a great kid (now an adult who’s 22), and I buy him a really cool gun every year. Now two of my God daughters (11 & 14) are on the right track and they also like guns. My other God daughter (16 and sister to the other two) believes that only certain people who pass a strict test should be able to own guns, and that there should be a limit as to how many guns you could own. I offended her by calling her a COMMIE, and she tried to explain that she’s really a liberal. I’ve never understood liberals but if they don’t like guns then they’ve got to have some COMMIE in them.

  8. There is little wrong with America’s love of guns ‘the culture culture’. Considering that far less than 1% of gun owners commit a crime with their gun there is little wrong with the gun owning community though there is always room for improvement. Ideally, I’d like to see all new owners get trained in the safe and effective use of guns. A long-term goal to improve America’s gun culture and community could be to encourage the ownership of at least one long gun and one handgun by all law abiding and qualified citizens who believe in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. For those people who support taking away our liberties I would prefer not to see those types owning guns.

  9. Nothing wrong with Americas gun culture, it’s working as planned. I just introduced my neighbor and his teenage daughter to AR’s & tannerite this weekend, fish meet hook:)

  10. The fact that Hollywood is completely guilty of misinformation, in regard to the portrayal of firearms, is not in question. There is almost nothing truthful about much of the action movies where such “glorification” takes place. That’s not the fault of the real traditional American gun culture.

    One of my biggest issues with our gun culture is that much of it doesn’t stand up and defend their rights. If they did, we wouldn’t have to worry so much, about having our rights removed every legislative session.

    While attributing much of Glock’s success to Hollywood, this particular take is a mistake, since Glock firearms stand on their own merit. That of being the reliable handgun of choice, for many gun owners and law enforcement agencies across the nation, as well as internationally. I would say this claim is more of the same hype we can expect from people who are adept at rewriting reality to fit their own narrative. Which is typical.

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